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Can a Newspaper Still Make a Profit?

Newspaper_stackSure, there are a number of newspapers out there today that are still in the black, but how long can this continue?  BusinessWeek's Jon Fine asks the question, When Do You Stop The Presses?, specifically aimed at the San Francisco Chronicle, but applicable to any paper in the world.

I'm one of the few who have held onto a subscription to my local paper, the Indianapolis Star, but every week I keep asking myself why.  It sounds pathetic, but the primary reason the Indy Star keeps getting my money is because I've been too lazy up to now to move my breakfast in by my computer.  I will before too long though and then they'll have one less customer.

The Chronicle is perhaps in the toughest of all situations though.  Despite the large target audience, they cater to what is arguably the most tech savvy region of the country.  Sure, there are plenty of technophobes in the bay area who will subscribe till the day they die, but they're clearly in the minority.  On top of that, you have the #1 classified ad killer, craigslist, operating in your own back yard!  Yikes.

The only salvation I see for the newspaper business is to be as hyper-local as possible, but even that has its limits.  Chip and Dan Heath talk about this sort of focus in their book Made to Stick.  (I haven't finished reading this one yet but so far it's all thumbs-up...stay tuned for a full review.)  They note how The Daily Record in Dunn, NC, has one of the highest penetration rates in the country, north of 100%!  They attribute this success to all the attention they give the local news, no matter how small an item, even (and especially) at the expense of the national news.

I don't doubt the success reported from Dunn, but it's only a matter of time before the Internet hits the backwoods of North Carolina (sorry, couldn't resist) and those people also wind up abandoning the print product for an online solution.


Paul Boger

An old friend of ours faces many of the same problems.

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